Category Archives: AFL

Week 12 Preview and Picks

Week 12 is here and there are two matchups to preview. Albany travels to Columbus to take on the Destroyers, looking for the number one seed. Washington travels to Baltimore to try and clinch the final playoff spot. There’s still plenty to play for this weekend. 

Albany is coming off of a rare loss in this matchup against Columbus. The Empire have had an extra week to prepare for the Destroyers, and are focused on one goal: The number one seed. Albany is as explosive as ever offensively but suffered many injuries to the secondary in the loss to Philadelphia two weeks ago. The severity of those injuries may have some impact on this game.

Columbus was embarrassed the last time they took the field. Quarterback Grant Russell was intercepted four times and sacked twice. Overall, the Destroyers turned the ball over six times.  Columbus also surrendered two defensive touchdowns and one special teams touchdown in the loss to Baltimore. It was a rock-bottom moment. 

Player to Watch: Wide Receiver Malachi Jones, Albany Empire. Setting the AFL ablaze this season, Jones leads the league in receptions, yards, and yards per game. He is second in the league in receiving touchdowns, trailing teammate Quentin Sims by three scores (24 to 21). Jones is also fantasy gold, according to Draft Kings. 

Prediction: Empire, and it’s not even close. Albany 52, Columbus 26.

Seeding and a playoff spot are on the line in this matchup. Washington needs one win to clinch the final spot, and a win over Baltimore benefits the Valor’s seeding hopes. The teams have played twice so far this season, with each team winning once. The teams are only one game apart in the standings, so a tie is a likely outcome. The winner of this matchup will hold the tiebreaker advantage. 

Washington lost a close game last weekend to Atlantic City, opening up a playoffs version of Pandora’s box. Valor quarterback Arvell Nelson has struggled lately, throwing three interceptions in the loss to Atlantic City. Nelson is a bit of a statistical mystery this year. He leads the league in completions and pass attempts, but is last in completion percentage. Nelson is second in touchdown passes but is also second in interceptions. For the Valor to make the playoffs and repeat as champions, Nelson must find some consistency. 

Baltimore is breathing a collective sigh of relief after Atlantic City was defeated by Philadelphia last week. The Blackjack loss propelled the Brigade into the playoffs. Baltimore can still climb as high as the number 2 seed in the playoffs, so don’t expect the Brigade to take any games off heading into postseason play.  Having the higher seeding in the first round could be critical for the Brigade to advance to the Arena Bowl. 

Player to Watch: Defensive Back Josh Victorian, Baltimore. Victorian intercepted two passes in the matchup vs. Columbus two weeks ago. Victorian returned one of those two for a touchdown. With Valor QB Arvell Nelson struggling over the last few weeks, Victorian could have a big day in the secondary. Baltimore is second in the league with 13 interceptions. As mentioned earlier, Nelson is second in the league in interceptions thrown. 

Prediction: Baltimore wins a wild one, 56-52. 

Here are the staff picks for this week:

AFL Week 11 Preview and Picks

The week one matchup saw Philadelphia defeat Atlantic City, 48-41. Photo: David Taylor

by: David Taylor

Week 11 only has one game, but it may just be the most important game of the season. Philadelphia travels to Atlantic City to take on the Blackjacks. The contest will determine the fate of Atlantic City, and willl heavily influence what Baltimore and Washington need to do the following weekend. 

Two of the hottest teams in the AFL square off in this weekend’s only matchup. With a win, Atlantic City keeps its slim playoff hopes alive. A loss will effectively end the season for the Blackjacks. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is playing for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs. 

Atlantic City has put up 131 points in its last two games (65.5 ppg) with backup quarterback Warren Smith, Jr. at the helm. Smith is 46-62 for 538 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two starts. Atlantic City is simply a different team with Smith at quarterback. Last week, the defense came up big as well, forcing 3 interceptions and recording one sack in the game. For the Blackjacks to win, the defense will have to step up and stop a Soul offense that was unstoppable against the best team in the league last weekend. 

Philadelphia has won three in a row and four out of five. The Soul have clinched a playoff spot but is hungry for more. Philadelphia still has an outside shot at the number one seed, as referenced here. The biggest change for the Soul over the last several weeks has been on defense. Over the last three weeks, Philadelphia has forced seven turnovers and eight turnovers on downs. The offense is also more consistent. Last weekend, Philadelphia scored on every offensive possession except the first one. The key to victory for the Soul will be to get some pressure on Warren Smith, Jr. In last week’s game against Albany, Philadelphia got a crucial third-quarter sack that changed the entire game. This game will likely be very high scoring, meaning that whichever defense can come up with a big play will win. 

Players to Watch:

QB Warren Smith, Jr., Atlantic City -Smith has set the league on fire in his two starts, so a big game from from him is what Atlantic will need to get the win.

DB James Romain, Philadelphia Soul– Romain is easily the defensive player of the year for the AFL. Romain leads the league with interceptions at 7. If Romain can step in front of a couple of Smith’s passes, it will be a long day for Atlantic City.

Color Wars:

Some other interesting things to consider: Atlantic City is 3-1 at home this season while Philadelphia is 2-2 on the road. Philadelphia has worn white on white over its last three games and is 3-0. Atlantic City typically wears all black at home and is 3-0 at home when they do so. As superstitious as athletes are, expect a monochrome matchup this weekend. 

Prediction: Blackjacks 64, Soul 61

Here are the staff picks: 

Deep Routes: A Weekly Dive Into the Statistics of the AFL

by Anthony Reinhard

Hi everyone! This will be my first weekly post where I’ll share some forecasts from my AFL Elo model and occasionally make a deep dive into some AFL data that I’ve collected.

Model Refresh

Albany was surprisingly upset last week on the road, but retains the top spot in my rankings. Philadelphia jumps to #2 after clinching a playoff spot. The Soul will try to keep their momentum flowing in the only game this week. They are a 4.5pt favorite over Atlantic City.

As far as the playoffs go, Baltimore is the only team that can clinch a playoff berth this week with an AC loss. A loss by the Blackjacks wouldn’t eliminate them, but my model has their odds dropping to around 1 in 400.

A Tale of Two Expansion Offenses

The Destroyers suffered a painful 38 point loss last Friday at Baltimore. This was the largest margin of victory since ArenaBowl XXX champ Philadelphia ran up a 70-21 win, also in Baltimore, during the 2017 season. Columbus scored twice in the second quarter, but was shutout in the second half. This was the first time a team has been held scoreless in a half this season and the 105th time in league history. The last instance came in Week 11 last year when the Valor failed to put up any second half points against the Soul.

It sadly gets worse for Columbus as they posted the 6th worst offensive performance since box scores became available in 2000. The Destroyers scored just 12 points on their 13 offensive possessions.

On the other side of the coin, Atlantic City had an offensive explosion in their win over Washington. They became the 15th team to post a 7.0 or better after scoring 63 offensive points on 9 drives behind new QB Warren Smith. In Week 3 of this year, Albany hung 50 offensive points on the Soul on only 7 possessions, the only team to exceed 7.0. Albany put their name on the list again two weeks ago.

Smith v. Hippeard

Warren Smith has now logged two successful starts as Blackjacks QB. Original starter Randy Hippeard has officially been “questionable” to play in both games since going down in Week 8 against Philadelphia. It seems to be an open question as to whether he will return and resume his duties as starter, but I thought it would be a good idea to compare where the players shake out by the numbers, both this year and last.

Hippeard played better last year and his larger sample size tends to give me more confidence he can deliver above-average production in the long-term. Smith’s solid play as of late should allow him to hold onto the job for the time being though.

Turnaround for the Blackjack Defense

Last week I tweeted that the Blackjacks would be in serious jeopardy if their defense did not pick up the slack after allowing a touchdown on 23 straight drives. My concerns were initially justified, as Washington scored on their first four drives on Saturday night. AC finally recorded a stop when they picked off an end-of-half Hail Mary from Arvell Nelson.

In the second half, a re-energized defense stopped the Valor on four of six drives to preserve a blowout 70-41 win. After the win, a certain Blackjack DB let me know that my doubt was misplaced.

Is the Commish Right?

That tweet from Northington wasn’t the only heat I caught on twitter last week. After expressing my disappointment to the AFL Tonight podcast team for not addressing a Columbus rumor during an interview with Commissioner Boe, I drew a reply a reply from the man himself. I was pleased with his answer, but I had another burning question from his interview.

Link to podcast —> http://www.arenafan.com/podcasts/randall_boe_interview.mp3

The podcast crew astutely inquired as to whether or not Commissioner Boe was concerned with the drop in scoring this season (about 1:20 to 4:05). The commish replied that the league’s focus moving forward was to shorten the real-time length of the game while still providing a high-octane product. Boe went on to assert that while points are down, points per minute of game time are up. I knew that possessions per game were down significantly so I thought I’d look into it.

My findings show that points per minute are actually down modestly this season. As Boe mentioned, he’s seen a substantial drop in game length. I personally am skeptical that making games shorter will drive engagement. I’m not sure that a two hour event is all that much more attractive than a three hour event in general.

Attendance has dropped again for the fourth straight year. The four non-expansion teams however have posted steady attendance numbers as a whole, so attendance is likely not a major concern moving toward next year.

The Race to Host ArenaBowl XXXII

Albany has not only been the best team since the start of the year, they’ve had huge lead in attendance and have clinched home field should they advance to the ArenaBowl. The next two spots have been locked in as well (to PHI and WAS, respectively), while AC has an 88% chance to host Baltimore in the unlikely event that the two meet in the ArenaBowl.

Odds of hosting ArenaBowl XXXIII:
Albany – 71.2%
Philly – 18.7%
DC – 9.8%
AC – 1 in 500
Baltimore – 1 in 3500

Stat Pack Attack: Episode One – Revenge of the Kick

by Richard Martin

What’s up everybody? Welcome to a new weekly AFL blog that I like to call Stat Pack Attack. 

If you’re wondering why I waited until after week three to start looking at stats, I wanted to get a more accurate look at the league after players had some competition and a few weeks to get use to their new coaches and players.

Every week, we’ll take a look at the passing, receiving and defensive stat leaders in the AFL, along with the strangest stat or most shocking stat of the week. 

This week, the scoring was up and the special teams play lead to some interesting stats. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

Week Three Results:

Baltimore 42 Columbus 35
Albany 57 Philadelphia 42
Washington 41 Atlantic City 34

Passing Leaders

The Quarterback is arguably the most important position in the Arena Football League. So far this year, two QBs have stood above the crowd.

Tommy Grady has been in the league for years, winning two AFL MVPs and setting the league records for touchdowns, passing yards and completions in one season. This week, Grady was on fire, going 14-of-17 for 256 yards with seven touchdowns in Alabny’s 57-48 win over Philadelphia. Grady leads the league with 16 TDs and has passed for 732 yards. 

Shane Boyd meanwhile has been phenomenal as well, going 24-of-44 with 287 yards and five touchdowns in the Baltimore Brigade’s 48-30 win over Columbus. Boyd this year has accounted for 15 touchdowns and just 1 interception. 

The quarterback that has impressed me most however may be Arvell Nelson of Washington. While he’s thrown for just 12 touchdowns and has three interceptions, the Valor signal caller has thrown for 819 yards this season. He can thank one of the best receivers in the league for that.

Receiving Leaders

Lamark Brown and Darius Prince have been impressive this year, each with six touchdowns this season.

But Dezmon Epps has surprised everyone in his first year in the league. Week one, Epps went for nine receptions for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Week two, he accounted for five receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. This week, Atlantic City focused on Epps, holding the former Idaho Vandals star to just three receptions for 29 yards. Epps should be able to rebound, but he’ll need a big week to help the Valor take down Philadelphia.

Defensive Leaders

James Romain has been the talk on defense this season. In week one, Romain had not one but two pick sixes in the Soul’s win over Atlantic City. 

Joe Powell leads the league in interceptions with three, including one this week against Columbus. 

In the tackling department, Monte Lewis of Atlantic City leads the league with three sacks, all three coming in week two against Columbus.

Stat of the Week

This week, there were two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the Arena Football League, a 55 yard return by Fabian Guerra from Columbus and a seven yard onside kick return for a touchdown by Albany’s Arkeith Brown. 

While having two kickoff returns for touchdowns in one week is rare in any football league, it’s especially rare for the AFL, who had two total kickoff return touchdowns all last season. 

This Weeks Games

May 18, 2019
Philadelphia Soul (2-1) @ Washington Valor (1-2) — 3:30 PM
Baltimore Brigade (2-1) @ Atlantic City BlackJacks (1-2) — 7:00 PM
Albany Empire (3-0) @ Columbus Destroyers (0-3) — 7:00 PM

All photos courtesy of official team Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Philadelphia Soul vs. Atlantic City Blackjacks – Week 1 Preview

Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media


By David Taylor

Three-time ArenaBowl champions, the Philadelphia Soul take the field on Saturday for the Arena Football League season opener. The Soul will be taking on the Atlantic City Blackjacks, a newly formed expansion team that is looking to make its mark on the AFL. The Soul will be looking to rebound from a disappointing 2018 season, in which they finished 7-5 and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh returns for the Soul. The nine year AFL veteran threw 36 touchdown passes last season, despite missing five games. Joining Raudabaugh is WR Darius Prince, the 2017 ArenaBowl MVP. Look for those two to light up the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.

Atlantic City will be led by quarterback Randy Hippeard, whose previous game experience includes an MVP level stint with the Tampa Bay Storm. Wide Receiver Kendrick Ings will be teaming up with Hippeard for the third straight season.

Look for big numbers to be put up on both sides. The Soul are getting to start the season at home for the first time in eight seasons, so expect a frenzied crowd. The Blackjacks are a new franchise, so some chemistry issues among teammates may arise due to the raucous home crowd.

Prediction: The Soul are among the AFL elite, so anticipate them to cruise in this one.

Soul 63, Blackjacks 42

BattleStations Episode 10: The Return

Week One is finally here. We have audio from Columbus Destroyers QB Grant Russell, DB Varmah Sonnie, and kicker Craig Peterson. We preview the upcoming game against the Albany Empire with ArenaFan’s Ryan McCarthy and hear from Ron Jaworski via @mattrappasports about the Arena Football League’s future.

BattleStations: a Columbus Destroyers podcast in conjunction with AFL Fan Zone. 
Follow Frank Walker on Twitter at @BStationPod and at https://battlestations.pinecast.co

Episode 7: Coffee and a Blast From the Past

An interview with Mr. Coffee Jones, notes from my meeting at Destroyers business HQ, and some wisdom from the beginning of the league courtesy of the Good Seats Still Available podcast.

BattleStations: a Columbus Destroyers podcast in conjunction with AFL Fan Zone. 
Follow Frank Walker on Twitter at @BStationPod and at https://battlestations.pinecast.co